By: Alyson Peabody, Editor-in-Chief
Every person who works on the Free Press staff benefits from the dedication of those who came before us. Writers, photographers, designers and editors alike have invested themselves into their roles as journalists covering the USM community for generations. The Free Press has birthed leaders whose strides continue to be celebrated even after those students graduate and venture out into the world.
Today, I would like to celebrate the life of the late Dayna Janice Browne who passed away on September 22.
Browne, 52, was the Executive Editor of the Free Press for the 1992-1993 academic year. I did not have the pleasure of meeting her, but I was able to connect with someone who worked with her while she was a student at USM. She is remembered fondly by classmate and now Communications and Media Relations Specialist, Daniel Hartill.
“She was a big figure in the Free Press,” Hartill said, describing her in three words: boisterous, warm and loyal.
A Free Press staff writer, Mishe Pietkiewicz, headlined Browne’s bio under the “Meet the press: ‘92-’93” with “Editor Browne will spotlight administration.” That is exactly what she did. Hartill recalled Browne’s love of “tweaking the administration.” She referred to the seventh floor of the law building where the university president’s office was at the time as the “Power Tower.”
Pietkiewicz quoted Browne in a not-so-subtle message that she would “like to see the administration totally accountable for everything they do next year.” President Richard Pattenaude (1991-2007) and Browne were friendly toward one another with a mutual respect for their work even when they were on different sides.
Her other goals include continued coverage of controversial issues and continuing the quality of the newspaper. As I’ve read Browne’s writing, I’ve resonated with her strong values that unapologetically capture the truth of the world she lived in that was riddled with war, scandals, political reform, terrorism and civil rights.
In her own words, Browne said the Free Press “serves as a bond in a very diverse community.” When reflecting on her role as editor, she said that the most important lesson she learned was that the editor “must make every effort to be accurate and fair, which includes being willing to admit when you’re wrong and to make corrections.”
After serving as Executive Editor, she was elected to the Student Senate where she championed press freedom.
Fellow student senator and now Assistant Dean of Students and Deputy Title IX Coordinator Sarah Holmes, shared her experience working with Browne.
“Dayna was a larger than life personality and a staunch champion for the freedom of the press,” she said in an email. “She was never afraid to let her opinion be known and spoke out against unfairness and inequity.”
Holmes said Browne was the kind of person that you knew where you stood. As a student leader, she could depend on Browne to have her back on the Student Senate.
“I lost touch with her shortly after our time together at USM, but I hope she continued to find joy in her life,” said Holmes.
According to her obituary, Browne graduated with honors from the University of Southern Maine. She then went on to receive her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Before law school, she worked as a professional chef.
Browne’s work was her passion. For the last twenty years, she lived in Washington DC working as a trademark attorney for the United States Patent and Trademark Office. She most recently was the managing attorney of Law Office 104 where she enjoyed teaching and mentoring junior attorneys, whom she referred to as her “chickens” or “baby lawyers.”
Her obituary read that Browne, “always aspired to bring out the best in the people she guided, and was deeply appreciative of those who had invested in her career.”
Holmes credited Browne with helping make the USM Free Press what it is today.
Every editor leaves behind a different set of shoes; Browne’s are still tapping away.